“When people are acknowledged and respected, this contributes to the regard they have for themselves. However, this must also go hand in hand with them getting to know themselves. As young children develop they start to learn about themselves and what they can do; they begin to recognise those things that they find easy and where they need help and support.
Initially, however, children have limited self-insight and they look to others to provide information. At first, young children are dependent on the adults around them to gain a view of their strengths and weaknesses.” (p.10)
According to Dowling, “Responses which hinder children’s self-knowledge” include:
- “Evaluating through praise – where adults always take the responsibility for judging what a child has done, believing that this is their job, this restricts the child from forming [-p.12] her own view. Nursery settings are usually defined by constant use of praise and encouragement – comments such as ‘that’s wonderful’, ‘I’m really pleased with you’ are commonly heard; however, praise can encourage conformity when it leads children to become dependent on others rather than themselves. Gura suggests that constant use of praise can be high on warmth but low in regard to information offered – this is particularly the case when the praise is general. Moreover, overdoses of lavish praise do become devalued even by nursery and infant children. Robert, age five, told me confidentially, ‘It doesn’t matter really what you paint because she (his teacher) always says it’s really very lovely’. Young children deserve more than a comforting and benign environment. Nevertheless the use of praise is very effective when used with discretion. It is particularly helpful to encourage those children who are not well motivated, to help set the limits of behaviour and for young children who are learning to socialise and become one of a group. Use of praise is particularly helpful when children are being introduced to a nursery, but in a climate of information it should be seen as a means to an end. Praise that is focused can help children to become aware of their achievements, for example, ‘using those elastic bands to fix the two boxes together is really clever Dean.’
- Evaluating with criticism – negative comments are inevitably going to leave children feeling inadequate and that they have failed. Importantly, if a child is criticised this usually shuts down her thinking. Early years teachers are very aware of this and negative responses are rarely used.” (pp.11-12)
On the other hand, Dowling points out that “responses which help children’s self-knowledge” include:
- “Using silence – often in a busy nursery, and particularly when adults feel under the pressure of time, young children are not given sufficient time to reflect and collect their thoughts. However, if when asking a question, an adult pauses to allow a child time to respond, the chances are that, as with older children, the time allowed for thinking means that the response given is of greater quality. It also demonstrates the adult’s faith that the child will be able to [-p.13] respond, which in turn fosters the child’s confidence. Young children will learn to recognise that they are not expected to come up with quick answers and that it is more important to have time to explore what they really feel.
- Clarifying – young children often find it difficult to put their thoughts into words. Sometimes, in their eagerness they rush to communicate and then tail away as they struggle to recall the sense of their message. Adults can actively accept children’s contributions by paraphrasing or summarising what they have said. Although the teacher may use different words she will make sure that she maintains the child’s intention and meaning. ‘I know what you are saying, David. Your idea is…’ In this way a teacher shows that she has both received and understood what the child has said.
- Asking for information – if practitioners show genuine interest in children’s views of what they have done, this helps children to become confident in making judgements.
- Providing information – if young children are helped to see how their paintings and constructions have developed over a period of time they will start to understand that achievements and progress are linked to growing up. A child will take pleasure in recalling her limitations as a baby and contrasting them with what she is doing now.” (pp.12-13)
Ref: (italics in original, emphases in bold blue mine) Marion Dowling (2005) Young Children’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development. Paul Chapman Publishing: London.